December 29, 2014

NBA Comment Guidelines - Be Nice To Others

I have been pondering guidelines for comments for some time, having seen that many of the blogs I follow have expectations for feedback and discussion. Up until today it hasn't really been necessary as NBA commenters have been unerringly polite.

Most comment guidelines boil down to "be nice to others". It may seem old fashioned given the abuse and obfuscation that web users are all to familiar with these days. Plain politeness has been supplanted by personal attacks, and too often meaningful discussion grinds to a halt.

After a good example of this here on my last post, I decided to write more formal comment guidelines. NBA values comments and all they bring to the discussion of simple living and lifestyle change, and would like them to continue without fear of being flamed.

NBA therefore vows to protect this community from the type of attacks and dark alley tangents that have become all to common in other areas of the Internet. I will be moderating our discussions more vigilantly to protect the people, values and ideas I cherish.

NBA Comment Guidelines 
Discussion and debate for the sake of learning and behaviour change is welcome here. I believe that this can be done via courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the post, whether or not they agree with the views expressed.  
Comments containing profanity, abusive language, or baiting will be deleted.   
Posting comments with a user name attached above, or in the text of the comment, are appreciated. Doing so lets us meet on common ground and get to know each other better.

I agree with Martin Luther King when he said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." However, speaking out improperly can be just as bad.

December 28, 2014

Happiness Is An Art

We wish you many happy moments living in simplicity and beauty.
"Whether this moment is happy or not depends on you. It's you that makes the moment happy. It's not the moment that makes you happy. With mindfulness, concentration and insight, any moment can become a happy moment. Happiness is an art."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

December 24, 2014

Things I Would Rather Do Than Go To The Mall

There are a lot of thing I would rather do than go to the mall, especially at this time of year. Sticking needles in my eyes comes to mind. Thankfully there are much better less painful alternatives. Here are a few off the top of my head.

  1. Sit by a campfire or wood stove.
  2. Have a long winter's nap (Linda and I slept in until 11:00 am this morning).
  3. Cross country ski miles and miles into the wilderness with a backpack and stay in a rustic cabin for a week (haven't done this one for a while, but it sure was fun when we did).
  4. Snuggle with my sweetie.
  5. Visit with friends.
  6. Go for a hike and visit the winter birds.
  7. Sit quietly and do nothing.
  8. Eat comfort food, then have a nap.
  9. Read a good book, or tell stories.
  10. Shovel snow off senior neighbours sidewalks... although I am feeling like a senior lately.

Hope you are all having a wonderfully simple holiday season full of the things you want to do. 

Peace and Love to you and yours.

December 22, 2014

Happy Buy Nothing Xmas

When American Research Group asked 1100 potential holiday shoppers, "What do you think you will spend on gifts this Christmas?", the average amount came to $861 dollars, up 8% over last year's anticipated spending. That figure is down from the peak in 2001 of $1053 dollars.

How did spending a bunch of money on competitive gift giving become associated with our winter celebrations?

If one is celebrating the birth of Christ this time of year, then the presents should be for him. But I don't remember anywhere saying that he requested $861 dollars worth of presents on Christmas. I think all he wanted was for us to be good to each other and the planet. Is that a gift we can handle?

If not celebrating a birthday, perhaps a pagan pre-Christmas winter solstice celebration is more to your liking. There are several from which to choose.

For festivities like Saturnalia or Yule you don't need to go shopping at all. You just need a bonfire and/or a log to burn in the hearth. Family, friends and feasting are good too, as are singing and dancing together.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate - love, forgiveness, peace, and new beginnings are what we need to keep in mind. Not things. Or stuff. Or crap.

Happy Buy Nothing Xmas.

December 21, 2014

Give A Passport To Everything - A Library Card

“Congratulations on the new library, because it isn't just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you -- and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.”
― Isaac Asimov 

If you are giving someone a gift, regardless of age, I can't think of a better one than a library card. The first thing Linda and I did after arriving in our new community of Digby, NS last summer was apply for our library cards. They came in the mail on a hot summer day, but it felt like Christmas.

Even better, our library cards were completely free of charge, as they are in many public libraries. Free card, free borrowing, free, free, free. How can you beat that?

These days anything publicly funded is being targeted by mean-spirited, anti-community, anti-knowledge governments looking to move more funds into private pockets. Public libraries have long been underfunded, but now their very existence is threatened.

In Canada our federal government has been closing government controlled libraries, and has gone so far as to destroy materials and burn books. 100 years of environmental research materials were burned or dumped in landfills.

Public libraries, while chronically underfunded, are safe... for now.

One way we can show our support for our public libraries is to get a card. And use it. A lot.

Right now I am using my library to enjoy several music CDs, a few movies on DVD, and one of the most beautiful books I have ever checked out. The book is the Smithsonian Definitive Visual History of Music. It is huge, filled with photos and information, and is transporting me through thousands of years of musical history.

The timeline for my musical tome is from 60,000 BCE to the current era. I am travelling through time and space (for free), and humming a tune as I go along.

You can too. Get a library card for yourself, or someone you love, and gain access to books, music, computers, movies, and your own civilization and community.

December 19, 2014

Where Do NBA Visitors Live?

In the comments on a recent post, Terri and I had a brief discussion about where NBA visitors live. It is something I think about a lot - where do the almost 300,000 visits to NBA come from?

Since 2008 when this blog was started in the throes of the Great Recession, we have had visits from 204 regions of the planet. You can define "country" in a variety of ways, but official lists vary between 195 and 249.

I figure 204 regions constitutes a UN of simple living advocates. We love to hear from readers everywhere. The sharing of experiences in simplicity helps promote an idea whose time has come. Again.

From consumer nations where simple living is still considered an oddity, to places where simplicity has always been the way, your comments are a valuable archive of wisdom and practice from which we can all learn.

And now, the top 10 countries with highest numbers of visits to NBA are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. Netherlands
  6. India
  7. Philippines
  8. Germany
  9. France
  10. Brazil

While visits from 204 countries is impressive, Linda and I really appreciate readers taking the time to leave comments. These comments are very inspiring and we appreciate the lessons we learn from them. 

Keep 'em coming, and we will continue to respond to them as often as we can. 

Thanks for visiting the NBA blog.

December 18, 2014

The Corporate/Consumer Gift

The corporate/consumer gift keeps on taking.

The corporate/consumer gift is a glittering package that we have laid at the altar of greed. It is a gift that keeps on taking... and taking and taking. And taking.

A recent Oxfam study has shown that the number of billionaires has doubled since this blog began in 2008. The study also found that the planet's richest 85 individuals have as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the population.

If anyone is wondering how much of the Earth's resources corporations wish to access and consume, I have the answer. They want to take it all.

All the planet's primal forests, all the clean water, all the pristine wilderness, all the sweet smelling air, all the fish in the oceans. Everything. Until it is all gone.

Then what?

The corporate/consumer gift that we have created, and perpetuated to near-planetary collapse, is a stylish brick on the accelerator of society, speeding us along to the point of no return. Riding shotgun are pro-corporate, jobs-at-all-costs governments that smooth the way toward the brink by cancelling current environmental laws and preventing new ones from being introduced.

All so the corporate/consumer gift can keep on taking. Most of the stuff we buy is the same - it takes more than it gives.

In order to tame the beast we have created, and take the brick off the gas pedal, we can think about whether we wish to burden ourselves and our loved ones with additional fetters before buying superfluous stuff. Especially around this time of year.

Happy holidays - two more days and the light begins to return.

December 15, 2014

Solving The Problem Of Consumerism Through Non-Participation

Are you a cog in the consumer machine, or are you a wrench thrown into its gears? Do you support its workings, or have you pulled the rug out from under its bulk?

The time has come to decide how we will react in response to overwhelming evidence that the consumerism beast is a tyrant disguised as a horn of plenty. Sure, it gives, but at a great price.

Consumerism kills freedom. It kills creativity. It kills life. Why would anyone support these outcomes?

The good news is that fighting back may be easier than you think. You don't have to become an activist getting arrested on the front lines (not that there is anything wrong with that), or live in a cave. You don't have to take up arms.

You just have to stop supporting the beast, stop serving it, stop feeding it with your time and money. This non-participation can be done through the time-honoured traditions of simple living.

Living simply is a withdrawal of support for global consumerism. It is a non-violent response to a violent way of life.

500 years ago, before the French Revolution, a gifted young man named Étienne de la Boétie, was writing about such things in his essay Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. Although he was writing about States and dictators, his ideas can be applied to other elite-driven, top-down systems as well.

Basically he said that things can change fast if the people's consent is withdrawn. Without the participation of the people dictators can fall, governments can fall, and other ways of doing things can fall too.

Reading this amazing essay I replaced "tyrant" or "the State" with "consumerism" and it still makes sense.

Consumerism then, has "nothing more than the power that you confer upon it to destroy you. Where has it acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can it have so many arms to beat you with, if it does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does it get them if they are not your own? How does it have any power over you except through you? How would it dare assail you if it had no cooperation from you?"

The solution?
"Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.” - Étienne de la Boétie
As simple living catches on with the masses, the tyrant of consumerism and all the death it deals out, will fall under its own weight and shatter for good.

It is up to us - we have the power. We can change everything by not participating in the problem.

December 12, 2014

Winter Is A Good Time To Slow Down

A vase full of sunshiny happiness brightens the dark days.

The hours of daylight are now about as bleak as they are going to get. We are in peak season (in the northern hemisphere) for cold, dark days, and we know that mood, energy levels, and the seasons are connected. It is a great time to be able to slow things down.

While most people's schedules don't change throughout the year, they find that their energy levels wane along with the amount of sunshine and heat. One has just as much to do with less get-up-and-go.

A normal response to cold, dark days is lower energy levels, with about 10% to 25% of the population in northern climates experiencing more serious symptoms including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

And we have a major holiday celebration at this time of year? Whose idea was that? It doesn't help when one feels more like sleeping in or eating a whole pie rather than going out into the chilly darkness. Being able to choose to do less and move more slowly right now is a nice nature-approved option.

In winter I would like to be a smart, old grizzly bear and hibernate through the dark days. Image how much money one would save on food and the heating bill. Turn down the heat this time of year, snuggle under an extra-warm down comforter, and see you March 20th.

Perhaps not so far fetched when NASA just announced some wonderfully torporific Deep Sleep research so they can slow down astronauts on their way to the planet Mars. Sleeping space travellers use less resources, and it makes the trip through a long winter in space more bearable.

Barring a few days, weeks, or months of sweet slumber, there are things that can be done to 'lighten' the mood in Winter whether you have SAD or not.

  • light therapy
  • using mirrors to reflect sunlight into home or office windows (I want some of these)
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • outdoor activity, especially on sunny days
  • exercise
  • laughter
  • music
The above suggestions are supported by scientific research. Having fresh flowers on display through the winter is not mentioned, but it makes sense. I recently discovered 50% off flowers at the grocery store, so I am giving them a try. So far the results are good.

The research also does not mention the effectiveness of having a reduced schedule to match reduced winter energy levels, but it does work. Winter is a good time to slow down.

Good day, and good night.

December 10, 2014

International Human Rights Day

Since our human rights are being extinguished more and more regardless of where on the planet we live, with each passing year International Human Rights Day takes on more importance.

This day of celebrating what every human being deserves began on December 10, 1948 with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights Day is a reminder of how undemocratic systems of government and abuse of authority can lead to injustice, oppression and violence - examples are far too numerous and depressing, both past and present.

After decades of paying lip service to human rights, and the occasional step in the right direction, today we are in danger of losing any gains we have made over centuries of struggle against the oppressors.

In Canada it seems like the only rights we have now are to:

1) go shopping and buy shit wherever and whenever we want.

2) vote every four years for one of the two basically identical pro-capitalist gangs masquerading as political parties (Green Party and NDP are acceptable alternatives).

3) work low wage, slave labour jobs for our masters benefit.

4) read and believe all the lies and propaganda geared to make us fearful and compliant, and 

5) shut up.

Speaking out in Canada under our present government is likely to get one on the government's Nixonian Enemies List. You will be surveilled, and perhaps even visited by the authorities - you could be, after all, a terrorist or green guerrilla that stands in the way of corporate profits.

If we don't fight for our rights today (and every day) we will lose them. This is the day to plan collective action to ensure this does not happen. It is time to halt the erosion of our natural human rights and live as equal members on planet Earth safe from unchecked greed and consumerism.

December 8, 2014

Fossil Fuels vs A Renewable Future

The people have spoken, and they want a measured transition off of fossil fuels and on to renewable sources of energy.

A monumental tug-of-war is raging between an elite small group of insanely wealthy fossil fuel pushers and a growing number of regular people that favour more enlightened clean alternatives.

This is one battle that the people will eventually win because our lives depend on severely curtailing the carbon economy. We can see that the tide is turning, regardless of what the MSM tells us (or doesn't tell us). Things are looking up for green energy.

Already there are more jobs in renewable energy in Canada than in the tars sands, the dirtiest oil source in the world.

Investment in renewable energy is up globally. Locally, my tiny town of Digby, Nova Scotia is becoming known as a centre for research and development in wind and tidal energy. Wind farms are popping up like flowers in the spring.

The municipality owns and operates a biodigester that processes biomass (including material from green household waste) to create methane used to generate electricity.

Increased investment in renewable energy is good news for the green economy, the environment, everyone's health, and future generations.

The future is bright... and clean - the transition has begun.

December 5, 2014


"Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?" 
- Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes watching the spread of global consumeritis can be overwhelming. It can feel like there is no respite from onslaughts of bad news. The place I turn to for relief is nature.

When in natural areas I experience what naturalist John Muir wrote of the benefits of his forays into the wild, "worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in."

"We inter-breathe with the rain forests, we drink from the oceans.  They are part of our own body."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

How pleasant then to find an accessible forest bath worthy trail within walking distance of our new home outside of Digby, Nova Scotia.

My experience begins as soon as I open my front door. I turned our Welcome mat upside-down so that when I leave the house I am welcomed back into the great outdoors once again.

"Why thank you. It is good to return to your loving embrace. Take me away." And off I go.

"You didn't come into this world.  You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.  
You are not a stranger here."
- Alan Watts

I usually take a small camera so I can record things I see along the way to share with Linda when I return home after an hour or so of sweet nature relief.

"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes" 
- e.e. cummings

This week I felt well enough to hike all the way to a small waterfall at the end of the trail. After a short session of tranquil sitting on a mossy rock and merging with my surroundings, I returned home feeling rejuvenated and ready.

How do I spell relief? N-A-T-U-R-E.

The respite I find in nature is what allows me to find the grit that will be required to save it so that future generations may find solace here as well.

December 3, 2014

Fame? Fortune? No Thanks

Peter Green - simple living guitar hero.

Not everyone wants fame and fortune. Some people know the dangerous pitfalls such a life entails, and choose the simple life instead.

Usually society figures that folks who voluntarily turn away from mass public recognition and truck loads of money are mentally unstable. But those of us that know the simple life understand how such individuals are only protecting themselves.

Take for example musician Peter Green, founder of the original version of the band Fleetwood Mac. He decided early on that outrageous fame and fortune was not for him. He wanted to live the simple life vs. the big star life and all the danger such a life entails.

In 1970, two years after he founded the band, Peter Green began to obsess about money, and told bandmate Mick Fleetwood that he wanted to give it all away. It is said that Green even approached his accountant with a gun and threatened him if he continued to send him cheques for playing music.

Eventually the star guitarist was treated for mental illness, and he left the band. Fleetwood Mac went on to become one of the most successful bands in rock history.

Peter Green went on to do his own thing his way. He continues to play guitar to the delight of audiences around the world.

What a role model - Peter Green is a simple living guitar hero.

December 1, 2014

Cheapskate Monday

"It's cheaper and not as dangerous."

An anonymous reader left a comment on my last post and called all the readers that "chime in" here "CHEAP SKATES". There was also a humorous reference to NBA readers giving fruitcakes and free Christmas cards.

I like fruitcake. And free cards. So I wasn't sure if I should be offended or complimented. But it did get me to thinking.

Are NBA readers:

"CHEAP SKATES"? No. Those would be inexpensive footwear for gliding across ice.

"CHEAPSKATES"?  No. It is rude to yell in person or online, and shouting it just makes the word sound so negative.

"Cheapskates", however is lower key and is a distinct possibility.

The word was coined in 1892 and described someone who was "a mean, grasping person usually stingy with money". Used this way it has an old fashioned Dickensian ring to it, as in someone who is "being a Scrooge" with their cash. It refers to someone who has taken cash-related common sense too far.

In modern times, though, the word has been upgraded to the point that it is no longer an insult in most circles. Many people today, including those living frugal, simple, non-consumer lives consider themselves cheapskates.

There are cheapskate books and cheapskate blogs. There are cheapskate websites full of cheapskate tips. There is even a website where you can get cheap skates if you are trying to save a few bucks before hitting the ice.

It seems that everyone is getting into the world of cheapskates. And/or cheap skates.

Take Leo Babauta, the author of the popular "Zen Habits" blog. He publicly confessed that he was a cheapskate in his post "The Cheapskate Guide: 50 Tips for Frugal Living". The way he describes it, I am a cheapskate too.

I may even be a cheaperskate. Perhaps some who visit here are too.

However, I doubt there are any NBA readers that pee in jars so they don't have to pay for water to flush the toilet. But even if there were, why would anyone take offence to something someone else was doing that doesn't affect them at all?

It is interesting to note that not spending money could make you open to potential insult, while earning, borrowing and spending to the point of getting into a financial crisis is lauded and seen as normal.

It is not hard to see what is going on here. They want us to spend, even if we don't have any money. They want us to borrow and spend. They want us to spend until it hurts. Spend even if you don't need anything.

Spend, spend, spend. Don't stop. Ever.

No thanks. Better to be a cheapskate. We're frugal, and we are changing the definition of what it means to have money common sense.

November 28, 2014

White Friday

It's White Friday out there today.

It's White Friday here on the mountain, and wild horses pulling a sleigh-of-plenty couldn't drag me away from my warm and toasty home. Today Linda and I join the 3% of North Americans (or 91% of NBA readers) that will buck the trend and stay home on this most sacred of consumer holidays.

On this day the NBA commercial-free lifeboat floats tranquilly in a quiet corner of the Sea of Consumerism, proving that 'irresistible' deals are in fact quite resistible. We are not buying anything, which is not unusual, but it feels even better on a day like today.

It's White Friday and I am saving 100%. Plus I am not risking life and limb in a car accident on the way to spend money, or worse, in a frenzied stampede of crazed consumers competing for the latest hot deals.

Today is a perfect day to stay home. To celebrate the richness of home life. The simple life. The contented life.

Here is where you will find us on White Friday - right at home next to our wood stove.

We hope you are having a good White Friday, and proceed right on to a great weekend.

Stay warm. Stay strong.

November 26, 2014

Black Friday Creep

Oh, Canada.
Our home on the Native's land.
True consumer love is our dictator's command.
With glowing wallets we compete for thy consumer goods.
The true North, strong and free... to shop for bargains all week and beyond.
Oh, Canada. We stand on guard for thy economy to the detriment of everything else.

- Canada's new national anthem

Did you know that Canada never traditionally had anything called Black Friday until fairly recently? In the past while our American cousins across the border hit the shopping malls this time of year, we tended to look on with a mixture of confusion and curiosity.

Now this celebration of unfettered consumer lust is not only creeping into our country, but it is starting to bloat like an out of control diner at an all you can eat buffet. For the first time I am now seeing "Black Friday Week" advertisements.

Apparently I should be looking forward to a whole week of frenzied, chaotic and competitive debt-fueled shopping. I note that grocery stores don't get into this action, probably because business people don't usually mark down stuff you actually need to survive.

It isn't actually Black Friday Creep, it is that Black Friday Is Creepy. They think we are gullible, out of control consumers and nothing more, wiling to sacrifice everything at the alter of greed and consumer dreams. Why not prove them wrong?

Alternatives To Black Friday Day... Week... Month

  • Only buy things that don't harm people or the environment. That should reduce your shopping list considerably.
  • Realize that you don't need anything They have to offer.
  • Spend the day (or week) repairing clothes and things that you have that can be made useful once again.
  • Go for a Buy Nothing Day hike and enjoy all the free nature out there.
  • If you must shop, shop Main Street rather than Wall Street. Buy from small businesses and local artisans, and get unique goods not available from the mass producers of crap.
  • Give the gift of kindness - that stuff is free and should be shared widely and frequently.
  • Be empowered by not shopping. If you don't like being told what to do by fascist governments and the corporations they support, exercise one of the last freedoms you have left - the freedom NOT TO SHOP. It is empowering to not blindly follow orders from above.
  • Celebrate Buy Nothing Day on November 28 (North America) and November 29 (International). 
  • Or co-opt the creep thing and celebrate Buy Nothing Week, or Month, or Year!

November 24, 2014

Solstice - We Survive

A little Larch loses its leaves.

We are one moon cycle from winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. People all over the northern hemisphere celebrate solstice as it represents the day that the sun starts its return to northern skies.

That was the crux of all celebrations at this time of year before they were co-opted by corporate interests. We celebrated surviving the frightening experience of the sun's heat and light leaving us in the cold and dark.

And then, on winter solstice, the sun returns to us. Thank the solar system and physics - the heat and light return. We just may be fortunate enough to enjoy another year. The green fuse sparks to life.

I was reminded of the greatness of this time of year, and the hope that solstice offers year after year after year, when I stumbled upon a luminescent tiny tree in the forest while on a hike.

You may see a scraggly, little "Charlie Brown Christmas tree", but I saw a magnificent Solstice Tree that was positively radiant in photonic splendour.

Even as its needles turned gold and began to fall, it was already hinting at the warmth that follows the chill winds of winter. Its resplendent display spoke to me, and it said, "See you when the sun returns and we can grow together again."

What could be better than that?

November 21, 2014

Zen And The Art Of Farming

"Observe nature thoroughly rather than labour thoughtlessly."

Masanobu Fukuoka's 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution  has been described as "Zen And The Art Of Farming". In it the Japanese farmer/philosopher lays out his natural farming manifesto which has influenced many a back-to-the-lander.

Fukuoka links the healing of our planet with the ultimate health of the human spirit - the two will improve together. Getting in touch with nature leads us back to ourselves.

I love how he questions our current notions of work. He thought that doing too much was what was harmful to our planet, and was very much into labouring efficiently.

This farming master was into doing what needed to be done and no more, and called his methods "Do Nothing Farming".
“I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world.  
Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is.  
It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life.  
For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.” 
My dad said as much in one of his favourite sayings which I grew up hearing often. When things got busy in his job as a teacher he would say, "Never mind all that - just living is a full time activity".

While he taught for 35 years, I never saw my father happier than in retirement when all he needed to do was what needed to be done. And no more.

November 19, 2014

I Wore The Same Clothes For A Year

"No one has noticed; no one gives a shit."

Talk about simplifying your wardrobe. Image wearing the same thing to work ever day for a year - that is my kind of no-decision-to-be-made morning dressing routine.

Karl Stefanovic, a TV show host, recently revealed to a sometimes shocked public, "I wore the same clothes for a year". His stated goal was to highlight the double standard that exists between male and female TV personalities.

While his female co-hosts are often lambasted for their fashion choices, he says that males in front of the camera are not held up to the same scrutiny. Of his experiment he said, "No one has noticed; no one gives a shit."

But his project seems larger than he even imagined. I love what this might say about fashion and clothing in general for both genders - it is all a farce designed to keep you spending money. No may notice your expensive clothes. Or your inexpensive clothes. Or that you are wearing clothes at all.

While the rich and famous may be under scrutiny from exploitative tabloids and people with nothing better to do, most of us are not.

Who cares what we wear day after day? Why bother with an expensive wardrobe and a new set of clothes for every fashion season? Does anyone even notice?

Better to save a bundle and wear what ever you want, even if it is the same suit of clothes every day for a year. Or longer.

November 17, 2014

Who Wouldn't Want Lots Of Stuff?

Pepe at home on the farm with his beloved three legged dog Manuela and old VW Beetle.
Once while discussing simple living with a family member I was asked, "Who wouldn't want lots of stuff?" It is a good question seeing as an increasingly large group of humans are choosing to participate in the apparent abundance of consumerism.

Why don't we seem able to acknowledge the limits of nature and stop consuming when we achieve the sweet spot of the Goldilocks Zone? Not too much stuff, and not too little - just enough. We seem to like too much everything.

We act as undisciplined children let loose in a candy shop. But not everyone is making those choices. Yes, it may be a small group, but I like to think that it is growing as our ecological awareness grows.

"Who wouldn't want lots of stuff?" Besides myself, I can think of many others. There have always been simple living role models, and they still exist today.

One of my current favourite simple living inspirations is President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, or Pepe as he is affectionately known by his people.

Despite the perks that come with his office, the only vehicle Mujica uses is his old Volkswagen Beetle. He lives in a three room farm house owned by his wife rather than in the cushy presidential palace, and he donates a large part of his salary to charity.

Pepe does not want the consumer lifestyle.

“I slept for many years on a prison floor, and the nights I got a mattress, I was happy. I survived with barely nothing. So I started giving great importance to the small things in life and to the limits of things. 
If I dedicate myself to having a lot of things, I will have to spend a great part of my life taking care of them. And I won’t have time left to spend it on the things I like – in my case, politics. 
“So living light is no sacrifice for me – it’s an affirmation of freedom, of having the greatest amount of time available for what motivates me. It’s the price of my individual freedom. I’m richer this way.”

Having lots of money and things does not mean you are rich, or free. What if the opposite is true?

November 15, 2014

The Consumerism Divestment Movement

“Divestment is a proven strategy that has repeatedly helped bring about positive social change.”
 - Michael Solomon

Growth is a natural part of life. But when growth becomes abnormal it dysregulates the balance of any system, and leads to disease or death.

When unchecked growths happen in the human body we call it cancer. When it happens in the economy we call it a good thing, and ignore the obvious symptoms of disease. What is the prognosis for patient Earth, and what is the recommended course of treatment?

The prognosis looks bad, but there is still hope. Increasing numbers of people are waking up to the reality of our current condition. I see such people as white blood cells doing battle with the unchecked growth of consumerism's tumours spreading over the land.

One recommended form of intervention is seen in the fossil fuel divestment movement.

"Divestment is just as much a pathway to economic and environmental justice as it as a measure to protect endowments’ value from plummeting when the carbon bubble bursts and redirect funds to build the clean energy future we need to survive on earth." -

Not only are institutions divesting from the cancerous fossil fuel system, individuals are divesting from the whole system that promotes endless growth at the expense of people and the environment.

We could call it the "consumerism divestment movement". Proponents of this movement are pulling back from the flagrant use of fossil fuels and many other trappings of high carbon consumer lifestyles.

For Linda and I this does not only include disinvestment from investments in the fossil fuel industry, but also pharmaceuticals, tobacco, weapons manufacturers and anything else that causes the cancer to grow on our planet.

Divesting from the stuff of consumerism is effective. One only needs to look at other divestment movements, such as what occurred in South Africa, to see the power behind removing our support from the things that are causing harm.

We decide where our money and support go, and with our help we can cure the Earth of the consumer cancer currently crashing systems all over its beautiful body.

It is time to divest from harmful lifestyles.

Perhaps with a more serious name like "The Consumerism Divestment Movement", simple living will catch on in the general public as much as the fossil fuel divestment movement is catching on among conscientious investors.

Then we will see some real change.

November 12, 2014

Aging And Household Spending Conducive To Simple Life

Good news for aging into simple living - it is a natural progression to reduce the amount of shopping you do the older you get. You really aren't getting older - you are getting better. Better at living simply.

Generally household spending peaks between the ages of 45 and 50, and then falls in most every category, dropping about 43% by the age of 75. See? Just by following the natural way of things you will live 43% more simply by age 75 than you were at age 45.

Inquiring minds will want to know why this is. Do we get wiser starting at age 45? Are we more content with what we have? Why slow down the spending after a life of binge shopping?

Whatever the cause, it looks like most people will slowly slip into the simple life whether a conscious decision or not.

Tired of spending hoards of cash on things you don't need? Not to worry - aging will take care of that. Not to say one can't start spending less earlier...

November 11, 2014

Celebrate Peace

The white poppy has been around almost as long as the red, which was first adopted as a symbol of remembrance in 1921. After British pacifists failed to convince the British Legion to print a peace message on the red poppy, the Women's Co-operative Guild began producing white poppies in 1933.

"The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers - but a challenge to the continuing drive to war.
War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war."
- from the British Peace Pledge Union

November 9, 2014

I'm Not Buying War

I'm not buying this thing called war, and admit I don't totally understand it. Personally, I hesitate to kill mosquitoes and house flies. Or cows, chickens and pigs. Years ago I quit fishing because I didn't like to hook and kill such beautiful creatures.

I cherish life and think that it is precious - all of it. That is why I try to do the least amount of harm possible while I am here.

I believe that most people have a peaceful approach to life, including some military personnel. Take for example Smedley Butler. He was a US Marine Corps Major General that became an anti-war activist at the end of his military career.

In 1934, Bulter wrote a book called War is a Racket from which the following quotes were taken.

"War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.  
If only more of today's military personnel would realize that they are being used by the owning elites as a publicly subsidized capitalist goon squad. 
I believe in adequate defence at the coastline and nothing else."

He was critical of US corporations and Wall Street bankers and the part they play in waging war.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."

We have to make things so that waging war is not profitable. That is what Smedley Butler concluded when he said,

“Let the officers and directors of our armament factories, our gun builders and munitions makers and shipbuilders all be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage paid to the lads in the trenches…. Give capital thirty days to think it over and you will learn by that time that there will be no war. 
That will stop the racket—that and nothing else.”

A good start would be to not buy war or much of anything else our global system of orchestrated violence has to offer.   

November 7, 2014

Simple Living In History

“This book highlights how rethinking our attitudes and behaviour toward consumption can be a fruitful pathway to social and ecological harmony.”  - David Holmgren
Simplicity has always been practiced by humanity. For 99% of our existence it has been the preferred mode of living on our finite planet.

It has only been the last few decades that extreme materialism has been touted as the best way to achieve happiness. This in spite of knowing for thousands of years the appropriateness of living simply.

The accumulated knowledge of appropriate living on Earth was recognized recently when The Simplicity Institute published a book called Simple Living In History: Pioneers of The Deep Future.

After receiving an email from the Institute I previewed the book. The Table of Contents sent me immediately to our public library website to see if it was in the collection. Unfortunately it wasn't, so I will be recommending it to their book buyers.


Preface by the Editors, Samuel Alexander and Amanda McLeod

by David Shi

1. BUDDHA - Peter Doran

2. DIOGENES - William Desmond

3. ARISTOTLE - Jerome Segal

4. EPICURUS - Michael Augustin

5. THE STOICS - Dirk Baltzly

6. JESUS - Simon Ussher


8. THE QUAKERS - Mark Burch

9. THE AMISH - Steven Nolt

10. HENRY THOREAU - Samuel Alexander

11. JOHN RUSKIN - David Craig

12. WILLIAM MORRIS - Sara Wills

13. GANDHI - Whitney Sanford

14. DITCHLING VILLAGE - William Fahey

15. THE AGRARIANS - Allan Carlson

16. THE NEARINGS - Amanda McLeod

17. IVAN ILLICH - Marius de Geus

18. JOHN SEYMOUR - Amanda McLeod


20. RADICAL HOMEMAKING - Shannon Hayes


22. PERMACULTURE - Albert Bates

23. TRANSITION TOWNS - Samuel Alexander and Esther Alloun

24. DEGROWTH - Serge Latouche

25. THE SIMPLER WAY - Ted Trainer

26. MINDFULNESS - Mark Burch

Each chapter of Simple Living In History is an essay about the person or movement indicated. It reflects the recent history (the past couple thousand years) of right living on our fragile planet even though our experience of living simply goes back hundreds of thousands of years to our origins.

Talk about a simple living study list - the Table of Contents alone gets me going. Awesome for future research, but I am going to see if I can get my frugal hands on a volume of this book.

Simplicity has been the way of the past, and will be the way of the future. Therefore a book like Simple Living In History becomes an important collection of applied knowledge to guide us into our sustainable future.

Simple Living in History challenges the mentality of waste and extravagance that defines modern industrial lifestyles, reminding us that the answers we need have been here all along, waiting for us to notice them.”   
- John Michael Greer

November 5, 2014

The Olduvai Theory

While I don't have the answers, I like to ask lots of questions about the way things are, or could be.

For example, I often ask myself what all the resource extraction, fossil fuel burning, and shopping will lead to.

The mainstream media does not talk about limits to growth much, but that doesn't mean other people haven't been thinking about how nature is responding to the demands of industrial lifestyles. The questioning started a long time ago, and has persisted to the present day.

Frequently, the answers are not what we like to hear.

Just recently the UN released a climate change report that included "stark warnings" and a recommendation that carbon emissions go to zero soon to avoid further damage. But similar warnings about the dangers of industrial civilization have been given before.

In 1893 historian Henry Adams could envision the American dream of unlimited opportunity and indefinite progress turning into a waking nightmare of the moral dilemmas of a capitalist society. He saw too that though science was making tremendous advances in the conquest of Nature, the odds were growing that a dehumanized mankind might lose the war.

It seemed probable to Adams that the ultimate result of exploiting new energy systems would be the "apocalyptic end of history itself".

Building on Adams' work and the work of others since, Richard C. Duncan came up with the Olduvai Theory in 1989. It attempted to answer questions about where industrial civilization was heading if it stayed on course.

The Olduvai Theory states that the life expectancy of industrial civilization is approximately 100 years: from about 1930 to about 2030.

Duncan believes that the cause of the collapse of industrial civilization, if and when it occurs, will be that the electric power grids go down and never come back up. He concluded that if we continued down the fossil fuel road, and did not implement sustainable strategies that industrial civilization would collapse.

He says, "The overshoot and collapse of industrial civilization was assured once humanity became dependent on the rapid exploitation of nonrenewable resources on a finite planet. Moreover our insatiable appetite for electric power has accelerated the collapse and steepened the decline."

We may still have time to avert an Olduvai situation from unfolding in a worst case scenario, but it will require massive and immediate action from all of humanity of the sort recently recommended by the UN report.

Some say we have until 2022 to take action. After that it is thought that we will pass the tipping point and nothing we do will be able to reverse the damage.

So what is all this leading to?

Will it be an oily Olduvai dystopia of death, destruction and shopping on our way to a post-industrial stone age, or a sun-driven sustainable simple living sensation that takes humanity into a glorious future?

This is what we should be asking ourselves as well as our elected officials, and we should be asking now.

October 31, 2014

Sometimes I Walk And Think

Sometimes I walk and think.

And sometimes I just walk.

October 29, 2014


As awful as our consumer-supported system seems to be these days, at least we still have somewhat of a choice whether we want to participate or not.

We can still choose whether or not we will be conspicuous consumers. We can still choose whether or not we will support, through our spending dollars, current destructive and harmful ways.

I thought of this while reading The Automatic Earth this week. Over there this line of text got me to thinking:

"Central banks can do all kinds of stuff, but they can’t make us spend our money on things we don’t want or need. Let alone make us borrow to do so." 

No, they sure can't. They can't make us work for them, either. They also can't make us work to the degree that we have to pay taxes to support their global domination plans. While I pay taxes in many other ways, I have not made enough money for a decade to have to pay income tax.

I think about that as Canadians' money is being spent to gut environmental legislation, promote fossil fuels and send killing machines to far flung "trouble spots" on the globe.

If you think that you are powerless, just consider the massive portion of the North American economy that is dependent on you and your choices. Consumer spending accounts for a whopping 70% of U.S. economic activity. In Canada that number is roughly the same.

"While harder to document, consumer behaviour is also revealed by decisions not to spend. For example, if enough people are involved, boycotting a company or a product (or even the threat of it) can be an effective way for consumers to make their opinions felt. Boycotting has brought about a number of changes in companies' social and business behaviour... In fact, any consumer decision to stop buying a product can ultimately and substantially influence corporate strategies."

We have choice.

October 27, 2014

Why Are We Here?

Healing, loving, creating together.

People have wondering about their ultimate purpose for as long as there have been people. The answer, I believe, is actually pretty simple, and it has nothing to do with shopping for things we don't need.

Regarding humanity's purpose, author Anthony Douglas Williams says:

"We are here to heal, not harm.

We are here to love, not hate.

We are here to create, not destroy."

If each of us made this our personal mandate we would not need police, or homeless shelters, or food banks, or war.

This week, and every week, I will make it my purpose to heal, love and create. It is simple, and it is why we are here.

October 24, 2014

Homemade Corn Tortillas

You would have to go to Mexico to get corn tortillas this fresh.

One way I have been able to judge my health over the past few months of my lower back injury is by our diet. The better I feel, and the more I heal, the fresher our food gets. Lately things are getting good and fresh.

This is not only because I feel better mentally and have a desire to cook, but also because I can stand for longer periods of time.

It has been a long time since I have made any bread, but making corn tortillas today brought back all the reasons for making food from scratch.

First of all, I find prepared foods to be lacking in flavour and healthfulness. The foods I make myself are exactly the way I want them - succulent and wholesome.

Then there is the excessive packaging that comes with prepared foods, even if it is 'only' a can, jar, or plastic bag. Cooking at home is packaging and garbage free.

Finally, prepared foods cost a lot compared to home cooking using inexpensive basic ingredients. And preparing your own food can be fun and personally rewarding. I love to be able to create food I like in my own kitchen.

One of my favourite home made bread products is corn tortillas. My recipe is based on one from the only cook book we own - Laurel's Kitchen.

Corn Tortillas

11/2 cups       water
1      cup        cornmeal
3      tbsp       butter
1      tsp         salt
11/4 cups      flour

Heat water to boiling and add 1/2 the butter. Add cornmeal slowly stirring to keep from clumping up. Cook on very low heat for 3 minutes, take off heat, then add the remaining butter and mix. Set aside to cool.

When cornmeal has cooled, add a bit of flour at a time and stir into the cornmeal. At this time I add the salt. Keep adding flour until you have a soft dough. Knead in the bowl with your hands until it forms a ball.

Knead ball of dough on floured counter top for 5 minutes. Roll into a tube and cut 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside. Cover with a tea towel.

Turn fry pan to medium high. With a rolling pin, roll dough flat to a diameter a bit smaller than your fry pan. Cook each tortilla for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then flip over and repeat. Do not overcook or tortillas will be brittle (good for tortilla chips if this happens). When tortilla starts getting brown spots it is time to take it out.

Place cooked tortillas between tea towels to keep them warm for serving. Left over tortillas can be frozen.

We make refried bean and rice burritos and the occasional fish taco with our home made wraps. Sometimes we fill one with peanut butter and a banana for a breakfast wrap.

Unlike the store bought varieties, I can't get enough of these corn tortillas. 

October 22, 2014


Dear Consumerism,

Please be notified that I am officially waving the white flag of surrender.

It is unhealthy to fight what is because what is, just is - you can't do anything about what has already happened. Therefore, practicing the saintly art of surrender becomes the rational thing to do.

In my surrender I am cultivating a life of calm, and this is what results from accepting that you exist in the world.

Do not confuse this declaration with "giving up" or "quitting" or even "going away". I will continue to chip away at your destruction, violence, and lies, just not in an angry, adversarial relationship.

I can only despair if I think that I know where your planet-harming excess is taking us. I do not. No one knows, even if there are some strong indications of where we might end up.

As writer Alain de Botton suggests we all do, I am surrendering to the future with hope. In this place of peace we can talk about what to do with you and your "profit over people and the environment" ways.

In closing, I look forward to working with you to help us build better ways of acquiring and allocating our resources in ways that preserve the planet - for future generations of my family, your family, and all families.

Thank you, Consumerism, for taking time out from making money to accept my official surrender and withdrawal from your war on everything. Here's to better days moving forward.

October 20, 2014

Words To Consume By

My favourite conscious consumption Re- word is REFUSE. If something doesn't fit with your environmental values the thing to do is refuse to consume it.

The following words from Pete Seger are an excellent anti-consumption guideline, and amount to about the same thing.

“If it can’t be

  • reduced, 
  • reused, 
  • repaired, 
  • rebuilt, 
  • refurbished, 
  • resold, 
  • recycled or 
  • composted

then it should be 

  • restricted, 
  • redesigned, or 
  • removed from production."
- Pete Seger

October 17, 2014

Simple Prayers or Whatever

It doesn't matter what you call them, their power is readily acknowledged. I am talking about affirmations, prayers, requests, or the act of manifesting.

Thoughts, words, and intention are how we shape our world. They can be used in positive and negative ways, so are best approached with humility.

In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott writes that the best two prayers she knows are, "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

It does not matter if you are sending your thoughts and words out to "God" or "The Universe" - I believe they are the same, and that the thoughts and words will have the same effect.

In her book Anne Lamott also mentions a friend that makes me laugh with her simple approach. The friend's morning prayer each day is "Whatever," while her evening prayer is "Oh, well."

While that is funny, if I had to choose I would take "Help me," and "Thank you". It is important to think good thoughts while manifesting your life.

"With our thoughts, we make the world." - Buddha

October 15, 2014

What Not To Buy Today

Do I really need another cutlery organizer? Does the world?

Hmmm. What not to buy today? The possibilities are endless.

I am always coming up with new things not to buy. I derive as much satisfaction from this as more consumer-oriented individuals do in shopping for the same items.

The difference is that they have to pay money for the things, then have to find somewhere for the things to go, then must care for and maintain the things, keep the things safe from theft, and eventually properly dispose of said things.

I like to skip all of that and see what I can do with the resources I have around me. A small example would be not buying a plastic cutlery organizer after our move to the Maritimes. Since I have always had a plastic cutlery organizer in a drawer in my kitchen, it seemed natural to buy one here.

Free cutlery organizers.

So much of what we buy seems natural since it seems like "everyone" has one. But not everyone in the world finds couches, cars, and coffee tables natural. Many do without... and are still happy.

The thing I am doing without today is a plastic cutlery organizer. Instead I am using two glass jars I salvaged after eating the peanut butter inside.

And as I cook I am finding having utensils at hand on the counter is preferable to having them hidden inside a drawer.

Most often the best alternative is to not buy anything.